Uncategorized, Updates

It’s Been A While

I really do apologize. It has been a long time since my last post. For that, the only thing to blame is really my poor time management and graduate school. That’s right, I graduated.

18403388_10213086070971572_5262759683580676467_n

I know, I look so happy there. It was 80 plus outside and I was dressed nicely because we were going out to a formal lunch/dinner after the ceremony.

Then went right back to school. I’m working on Masters Degree in British Literature. While I’m working on it, I’m lucky enough to be mostly funded by working at the school as an instructor in the writing center and teaching English classes.

I also moved, found out what the issues in my back were (DDD), and am working on a paper for an academic conference. It’s been a busy and happy time, and I even have my own office now so I can escape from the life of having a roommate a the noise that comes with living in a dorm again and work in quiet. Though, if my coffee maker in here remains broken I may resort to having to work in my dorm with a fresh supply of coffee from my Keurig.

Now, why, you may ask am I finally updating the blog after nearly a year long absence? I’m hoping to get back into blogging again. Now that I’m so busy, I’m dying for a break and a way to get out my creative writing so I hope to be able to update once a week for now.

~Jessica.

Monday Musings

5 Tips for Continuity Edits Pt 2

Hello all, sorry there was no second post last week. I had a few real life things come up in the form of an unexpected script and a large essay due. Now, we were talking about how to edit for continuity in your novels or short stories.

We talked about how using a spreadsheet can help to keep track of scenes, characters and dates. Then figuring out why there are discrepancies so that you can keep track of them. Finally, we talked about tracking characters.

I want to expand upon that. By tracking your characters in the form of interviews, knowing their background and their path for the story you can make sure that in one scene your character isn’t saying their favorite food is pizza and in the next is disgusted by the thought of tomatoes in general. I know that is an example that probably wouldn’t happen but I had to think of something to use as an example.

The fourth point about continuity edits is that with each change to the novel’s timeline, there needs to be a look at the entire novel/story. I know that seems like a lot of work but it is important to make sure that you haven’t changed something that could be essential to your plot.  It can be a long process to edit for continuity editing but it is well worth it to avoid errors similar to those in the Star Wars Universe. (I’m talking about where Luke says he remembers their mother and that she was beautiful and then Padme dies in childbirth.)

The fifth and last point, is that like all edits, remember that there is such a thing as too much. You don’t have to have a 100% accurate timeline. What I mean is, you don’t have to look up every fact, figure and tiny detail. Just don’t say that it takes five hours to drive from San Francisco to LA when it really takes almost twice that. (I know that from personal experience.) What you’re going for is the idea that a story has a timeline that has to be kept intact. You can’t have one scene take place in October and the next in September.

So, what do you all think? On Wednesday we will be talking about the ways that writing a script treatment for your novel can be helpful to you. ~ Jessica

Top 5, Uncategorized, Updates, Writing Advice

Monday Musings: 5 Tips for Continuity Edits Pt. 1

Right! Sorry there was no update last week for this blog. I’ve been under the weather for about a week now with the flu so while I posted two blog posts for last week as I usually work on them during the weekend, this weekend I was not able to work on them. And then at the end of the week my brain decided that a migraine would be a welcome addition to the collection of medical oddities for me this month. 

This week I’m going to talk about editing. In my creative writing class we’re doing a writing workshop and my piece is going first. I chose to use the first two chapters of my novel, which is approximately 11 pages of writing. Now, I wrote this novel over the course of about a year so there are portions that I wrote before I outlined and those that I wrote after I outlined my novel.

There were two different paths for my main antagonist in the frame of my story. In one he is the head of campus security and in the other he is a deputy for the sheriff’s department. Now, as I was compiling this piece for my creative writing class, I realized that I had him in two different roles: both as the head of security and as a deputy of the police force. Now, for ten pages that wasn’t much to edit, but for the entirety of my novel, that’s a lot to edit for continuity.

Now, aside from just sharing my novel with my creative writing class I am starting the process of editing and revising it now. The first step that I am taking along that path is going to be in the timeline and character continuity edits.

The first step, at least in my editing process is to create a spreadsheet. I don’t create anything too fancy, just a list by chapter that contains the places, dates, times and characters that go into each chapter so I can track everything and make sure that I’m not creating timelines that cross or that are conflicting.

img_0064

As you’ll notice here, the last two entries are in fact almost a month behind and are something that I nearly didn’t catch before I turned in my paper because of how I write, in bursts and not in linear progression. (Which I can do because I outline. So I know generally where I’m going and where I’ve been and I can cross of major scenes in the outline as I write and know what’s left to do.)

The second step is to figure out why there are discrepancies in the timeline. For me, it was that the scene in 24 Hour Fitness and the one that follows were written before the one in Johnstone Center and thus there was a time discrepancy. Now, in another life, that may have been okay, but as these scenes take place directly after, or are supposed to be directly after an attempted murder,  I need to first correct the timeline with the correct time-stamp in universe and make sure that there aren’t details that changed between writings.

The third step in this process is to track your characters. For that I use my character interviews. Now, in this case, the problem is that I have two profiles of David. In one he is campus security and in the other he is a Sheriff’s Deputy. So now I have another error that I have to track and correct throughout my novel.

That’s it for today and I’ll be putting the rest of this up on Wednesday for Writing Wednesdays. Let me know what you use for your continuity editing.~Jessica.

Uncategorized, Writing Advice, Writing Wednesdays

How to Do Character Interviews Pt 2

Hello, and welcome to part two of this character interview post series. Here’s where we get down to the nitty-gritty. What is a character interview and how to do it? How do you know that your character is actually speaking in their voice and you’re not just answering your own questions? Those, I think, are the essential questions when you’re talking about a character interview and how to do one. 

HOW TO DO A CHARACTER INTERVIEW

The first step in doing a character interview is to know what you want out of it. Do you need to get to know your character for the first time? If so you’ll need to do a much different kind of interview than a character that you’ve written four previous novels about. Getting to know someone for the first time is after all a different conversation than you have with your friends after knowing them and going back to catch up with them after a while.

The second step is to come up with a set of questions for the interview. I find it helpful to have a set for each type of interview (ie new character, recurring character, first interview, villain).  I’m going to attach a PDF of questions that I use for my own interviews to the end of this post.
The third step is to have some beginning steps complete before interviewing your character. Well, what I mean is, ask the basic questions first. Name, age, height, etc. so you can form a clear picture in your mind and learn to hear their voice as they answer the deeper questions. If you hear them say something in a certain accent or way, try to write it down or note it so that you can remember it when you go to write your story later.  

Your character’s voice will come out in the pauses and the way that they speak, the slang, the word and sentence choice and even the length of the answers. It may sound weird, and even downright odd to think of your character as speaking to you if you’re not used to is but, we are writers and weird is kinda what happens. That being said here’s a sample of a recent interview with the protagonist from my screenplay:

What’s your name? Riccardo Ciardino

How old are you? 30

What do you look like? I’m 6’ tall. I’ve got brown hair. Kinda skinny and I gotta wear glasses cause I can’t see for shit from far away. Blue eyes that everyone else says are striking whatever that means.

Where did you grow up? In Italy and Nebraska. Dad got stationed in Naples when he was in the Navy and I ended up living there for a few years so I got ta experience tha Italian culture for six years. It was even better than Nona’s cooking. I mean I knew we was Italian but living there, it really brought the culture to life.

What’s your favorite childhood memory? Family dinner on Sundays. Nonna used to make lasagna or gnocchi or something y’know? And everyone would be there. We’d be talkin bout what had happened that week or history, or living in Italy.

What do you do for a living? I’m a priest. Don’t know how that happened. I started out wanting to be a counselor but ended up in seminary an one thing led to another so here I am a full blown priest now.

What’s your least favorite thing about your job? I don’t know that I would say… One…. Probably taking confession. It’s a burden to hear these people’s confessions and I have to hear them and not tell a soul. I know so much about so many people, and I see them and know everything about their lives. I’m ah, just, so young, an, *sighs* it can be a lot to bear y’know.

What’s your favorite thing about your job? Being able to help people. When they come to the office for something and I can give advice or help em, especially the ones in college, cause I just graduated so I know how that can be.

Where do you live? Now, I was just transferred to a parish outside of San Francisco. It’s a big change. I mean from Italy to Nebraska to the big city. I live in uh the rectory of the church there, so a small apartment really.

What do you want? I want to help people, the troubled ones. Counsel people in the church. I mean, if I wasn’t a priest I’d like to have kids, but vow of chastity. It’s hard to uh stay like this as a young man.

So, as you can see, that is not what I sound like. I don’t know where it came from but, it seemed to fit for this character. He’s a priest, and in this screenplay, which is a horror one, he will be possessed. For this interview I’m just trying to get to know him and where he came from. He’s going to be the protagonist so it’s important to know who is and why he’s the main character, and not say, someone else, who’s witnessing this possession. This is not the entirety of the transcript for both the reason that it’s not entirely done and I don’t want to give away all the secrets of this character just yet.

In this interview, for example, I discovered that he’s overwhelmed by his duties as a priest and that, that is an interesting detail that I can use in this screenplay to motivate Riccardo. Especially in that he will end up possessed in this short script.

I’ll attach the PDF that I use for character interviews to this post. Just know that these are basic questions. For this specific interview I’m going to add questions like:

  • Why did you choose to become a priest?
  • Do you believe in possessions?

Hope this helps you in building your characters now and in the future.

characterinterview

~Jessica

Monday Musings, Uncategorized

Five Reasons to Do a Character Interview

So, this is my last semester as an undergraduate in college. I’m taking classes in Creative Writing and Writing the Screenplay and by some miracle (even though they’re in different departments) they’re talking about the same things at the same time. This last week we were covering characters and character building. So now I want to share what I learned along with what I usually do while I’m writing to create a character interview and profile.

Top five reasons to do a character interview:

  1. It gives you an idea of who your character is, their flaws, likes, dislikes, goals, and more.
  2. It allows you to hear your character’s voice as they answer your questions about themselves.
  3. The details you learn in your interview will bleed seamlessly into your story and create a more vivid and realistic character.
  4. You’ll have a physical profile of your character in his or her own words.
  5. You’ll have a record you can go back to throughout your writing and can reference whenever you need to know something about your character.

 4 Books to read about character building (Before I go any further I will say that I make no money from these links and they are not sponsored whatsoever):

  1. Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Authors Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development by K.M. Weiland – K.M. Weiland is a writer whom I am very grateful to have found. Her books and workbooks have improved my writing and converted me from a certified pants-er to a plotter and I couldn’t be happier with the results. This book is newer, and I has help me to see how a character arc works and how I can use them to plot out my character.
  2. The Weekend Novelist by Robert J Ray – I found this book on my dad’s bookshelf when I was a kid because the edition I have is from 1994. I took it to be one of my writing bibles as a kid. Now, the entire book isn’t about creating characters but there is a section devoted to character building in the book and it taught me the first things I learned about writing characters. He speaks about a character sketch, back story, dream and dressing your character in the section entitled weeks 1-4.
  3. A Writer’s Guide to Characterization: Archetypes, Heroic Journeys, And Other Elements of Dynamic Character Development by Victoria Lynn Schmidt – This book is one that I acquired recently in my effort to expand my writing bookshelf. At first I thought it was odd to compare characters to archetypes like the female ones, males ones, then broken down into animal archetypes, but it makes sense as she provides specific examples and each animal and character (For the fox she uses Bilbo in The Hobbit). It provides something interesting and unique that I think helps to craft more interesting characters. It is published by Writers Digest books.
  4. Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints (Write Great Fiction) by Nancy Kress – This book is another fairly recent purchase that is again from Writers Digest books. What I enjoy about it is the exercises that are included at the end of each chapter to work on the concept that she talks about with character building. She also talks about how to choose the right POV for each story and how that will affect the character and use of character building exercises.

Top 5 Things I learned in Class:

  1. Character building is essential for all forms of writing (movies, novels, short stories)
  2. There are so many different ways to build character.
  3. It helps to have a standard form to build your characters.
  4. Sketching out a character’s private place is one of the best ways to learn more about your character.
  5. Sometimes the best way to create a believable character is to take a small detail you see somewhere and use that in the story.

 

Now, I’ve discussed the importance of character interviews and character building in this post. On Wednesday, I’ll post the next part of this series and have part of a sample interview that I’m using for my DFM Screenwriting class as well as a PDF for my character interviews and character sheets that I use for my stories.

~Jessica.

 

Uncategorized

Why I Keep an Idea Journal

Hello everybody, and welcome to February’s first Writing Wednesday. This week we’ll be talking about an idea journal.

First, what is an idea journal?

An idea journal is, to me, where writers keep their ideas, research, and little kernels that will eventually make their way into your writing. It is one place that all ideas go to be collected. Before I had an idea journal, I kept ideas everywhere. There would be scraps of paper, multiple journals, ideas lost because I couldn’t remember where I wrote them down. I can’t tell you how many ideas I simply can’t find because they were on a post it that has somehow been lost to the mess that is my desk and creative mind.

Second, why use just one?

I find using one and dividing it into sections: ideas, kernels, research and blog posts is best for me. That way I can carry one thing with me and have everything I need for my all of my various writing duties in one place. I can keep my blog ideas in a section and check them off as I write them, adding more as I come up with ideas, add ideas for novels and short stories in another section and keep of track of research like where I looked and what I have looked up in one place. It means that I have to only grab my notebook and I’m good to go. My kernels are little details I notice like when someone in one of my college classes pulled a pair of sweatpants out of his backpack. That will find its way into one of my stories somewhere.

Third, what kind of notebook?

I just use this. It’s a simple notebook I was given for my birthday that I divide with some post its. I could use a fancier one and I’m sure once I’m done with this notebook, which works for now, I will. A three ring binder or multiple subject notebook like I use for class would work better. But for now, Darth Vader serves the purpose that I need. He is great and captures my personality and love for Star Wars.
Well, that’s about all I have to say. Do you have an idea journal or anything similar or why not? -Jessica

Monday Musings, Top 5, Writing Advice

Top 5 Resources for Writers

Hello and welcome to this week’s Monday Musings. I’ll be discussing my Top 10 Resources for writers this week. Everything from computer programs to books to websites. I’m not listing them in any particular order, just my top five resources. I will also say that I am not affiliated in any way with these products or people and am just listing the products that I find helpful in my writing life and as such, want to share.

  1. Writers DigestWriter’s Digest I’ve had a subscription to this magazine on and off since I was about 10 years old. The things that I love most about WD is their articles and tips for writers. Even though they run the same type of issues every year, I constantly find myself learning something from them and their magazine. The magazine also has monthly contests for writers, and a helpful breaking in section in every magazine featuring new writers in every issue. Writers Digest also publishes a list of writers resources every year that I highly recommend purchasing even if you don’t have a subscription to the magazine.
  2. The Creative Penn Website & Podcast– The Creative Penn website/podcast run by author Joanna Penn is one of my favorite writing resources. She gives great writing advice about her own journey to self publishing and interviews many writers and industry professionals in the Indy publishing industry. Her website offers links to her books, courses, free information, videos, social media and more for writers to connect to.
  3. The Self Publishing PodcastSPP The self publishing podcast, hosted by Johhny B Truant, Sean Platt, and David Wright is published weekly and talks about trends in self publishing. Each week the three successful authors share their take on what’s going on and interview others in the industry. They also talk about how to be more productive as a writer, using tools to advance your writing, and systems to write faster.
  4. ScrivenerScrivener  A writing software that I use on my computer to write my novels. I am so glad that I invested in it. It has a feature that I love, called the binder where you can organize everything in one place and see it for your novel. Screen-Shot-2013-12-18-at-8.43.37-AM-e1387390545224.png                                         It allows for you to organize your scenes, move them around, even keep old drafts and restore them to see where your writing has been and how it’s changed so you can restore old changes to it. It is about $40, so it’s a bit of an investment but it does export directly to Kindle format so you can write and theorectically have a properly formatted book however, I have heard that there have been some problems with that function as of late. I don’t know if that will continue to be the case or if it has been fixed yet.
  5. HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.comHelping Writers Become Authors K.M. Weiland runs this site and podcast. It is both a blog and a podcast that offers articles about everything from story structure to character building. Her podcast takes the articles on her blog and expounds upon them, giving deeper insight and information on them.
Top 5, Writing Advice, Writing Wednesdays

Top 5 Tips for Writing LGBT Characters

In the modern world there is an entire subset of book and publications for the LGBT community. As the topic grows in the public eye, more and more books and other forms of media are featuring LGBT characters. In order to avoid stiff, stereotypical characters it is vital for writers to know what they are doing when it comes to these characters. Being an active member of this community, I have insight into writing better LGBT characters than those used as a simple stereotype.

1. Most LGBT people feel the need to hide their LGBT identity. At least from some facets of their lives. There is still a large stigma around being a member of LGBT community and it is for our own safety that we hide our identity.

2. Just because someone is a gay or lesbian character does not mean that they have to follow all of the stereotypes of being gay or lesbian. Not every gay man is flamboyant, not every lesbian woman dresses like a man, not every bisexual person is greedy and going to cheat on you. No gay man is always super fabulous, has a nice house and wants to be your gay bff all the time.

3. DO NOT KILL OFF A LESBIAN OR GAY CHARACTER ONCE THEY REALIZE THEY ARE GAY/LESBIAN/BISEXUAL/TRANSGENDER. This has become way too common of a trope on TV shows like The 100.  (Spoiler Alert for Season 3). Right after Clark and Lexa consummate their relationship, Lexa dies. This trope is not only tired and old but a complete insult to those in the LGBT community.

4. Diversity! Not every gay or lesbian charactacter has to be a white character. Intersectionality, or having a character be say gay and Hispanic can prove an excellent way to add depth to them. No two peoples sittuations are the same.

5. Being gay is not going to be the entirety  of this persons story unless it is a coming out story. That is a specific kind of narrative, similar to a coming of age story and follows a similar structure to those. If the story is not about that, being an LGBT character is a part of an interesting character, but not their entire personality. 
So, these are my top five tips for writing LGBT characters. Let me know what you think. 

-Jessica 

Bits of Writing, Flash Fiction Challenge, Writing Prompts and My Twist

Day 4: “His wife was having tea with the King and he didn’t even know about it.”

His wife was having tea with the King and he didn’t even know about it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Helen?” James called through his bedchamber, expecting his wife to answer, after all, she had nothing planned for the day and he needed her to arrange his breakfast and clothing for the day.

No answer. Why would his wife not answer him? She should be here in his chamber to make sure that he had what he needed to begin his day before she went to work with the other wives.

What was he supposed to do? He got up, opening the curtains of his bed and expecting to see his wife there. She was gone, but his clothes, washbasin, razor, and breakfast for the day were neatly laid out.

“At least she has the sense to leave me this.”  There will be hell to pay for this later. Leaving me without telling me where she is going. Who does she think she is, some noblewoman, able to leave her husband and go off while leaving him with no one to help get ready for the long day of share-cropping?

He dipped his razor into the basin and began to shave, still muttering as she wondered where his wife could be today.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Helen smoothed the creases in her dress. It was the finest one she owned, having only three patches in it. Why the King had requested to have tea with her she knew not, but she still wished to make a good impression on the young leader, after all, he was the King.

She waited as the courtier called her name, announcing that she was there for morning tea with the King.

“Helen McIntery for you, Your Highness.”

“Thank you, Sean, leave us.” The courtier bowed, ushering her into the room and left.

Helen entered, expecting an opulent room and was pleasantly surprised to see a normal living area, a small table with a tea set and some scone set upon it.

“Please sit.” The King was sitting on the opposite end of the table dressed in a simple shirt, not unlike the one she’d set out for her husband just hours ago.

“Y-Yes Your Highness.”

He laughed pleasantly. “None of that, just call me Edward.”

Helen sat, watching as the King poured her a cup of tea. She was struck by the odd nature of the scene.

“I-I couldn’t possibly. I mean you’re the King and I’m just a farmer’s wife.”

“Here, have some tea.” Helen took the tea, adding just a drop of honey, something she and James had never had much extra money for.

“May I ask why I was asked to have tea with the King?”

Edward smiled, taking a bite of one of the pastries. “Yes.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“So, your wife was headed up to the castle this morning.”

James looked up. “What?”

“Yeah, one of the King’s coaches came an took her up there.” John continued to pick carrots from the field as he spoke.

“Why would she be going up there?” James stopped, looking at his friend as he spoke.

“Dunno. Maybe the King heard about your wife’s cooking?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“So, you mean to say that you have need of a cook and you want to hire me as you’ve heard I’m a good cook?” Helen felt her heart beating out of her chest. This was almost too good to be true. The king was offering to move her and her husband into the castle as his personal cook.

“Well, I would have to try your cooking. And of course, that is if your husband approves.”

Helen smiled. “If you would allow me to ask him, I could go now and be back to prepare you supper.”

_________________________________________________________________

30 Day Flash Fiction Challenge Day 3

Uncategorized

January Update 2

Hello Readers and Writers,

I wanted to apologize for not being able to update as much as I thought I would be able to. I have had a lot going on this month. Without going into too much detail, when I had my doctors appointment I was put on a different medication that has some side effects that take some getting used to. The main one of which is extreme lethargy and exhaustion. After about a week on that new medication I have finally figured out how to fight it and I’m back to being able to be awake and up. I was hardly able to stay awake during the day let alone write or even go to work. Let’s just say working when you can hardly stay awake is not something you want to do.

My last semester as an undergraduate college student starts on Monday so my days are going to get busier which means I’ll be having to find a way to squeeze this in to my work, which I hope will mean I can get it done more. I don’t know, but to me, it seems like when I’m busier I have an easier time of getting things done.

I’ve got my interview transcribed and I will have it up and on the blog by the 25th because I am starting the interview process for another job over the next few weeks and I have another few doctors appointments coming up. This month is turning into one of the busiest I have had in a long time.

I will be trying to get caught up on the writing prompts today, but I cannot promise more than one extra as I do have to get caught up on some housework before my family comes for a visit this weekend as well.

Day 12’s prompt is: A story entitled “The Fate of the Telegraph Operator”

–  Jessica